School’s Out

The Country School, Winslow Homer, 1871

Yesterday, Anne completed her long term substitute teaching gig, in the first grade that she had begun in November and today, the woman who had been on maternity leave returned to school. Also today, Anne swung by the classroom one more time, to present the baby quilt that she had made for her. Word gets around about these baby quilts and I think that expecting teachers pick Anne, in part because of them. This trip seemed like it would be problematic, in that the water company had blocked both ends of the block, but she managed to evade their blockade. They were digging Toyota traps to stop her. I labored to get all of our water use out of the way for the day, since they have worked their way up the street to our water lateral and the possibility of a water shutoff seemed quite likely. Anne plans on taking some well deserved time off now, before resuming her regular day-to-day substitute teaching duties sometime in the future. In other news, we got our Federal income tax refund back. We still have to pay on the state. It’s not much, but that can wait until April 15th.

The Bus, The Bus, The B-U-S

1936 Dodge School Bus

We’re counting the days now. The days left on Anne’s long term sub gig that is. We still have several weeks left to go, but those pass so slowly that we had to covert from weeks to days. Next week will be a big week at school, report cards and then parent-teacher conferences. The report cards are all but in the can now. Anne has been sweating grades all month. The conferences shouldn’t be that big a deal. She’ll get support for those prickly parents. Yes, they know who you are. 

We’re also counting down the days and looking forward to our next vacation. I know, I know, we just returned from one, but this next trip is a visit to the sunny and tropical American Virgin Islands. A brief snowbird’s getaway from all of this dreary winter weather. Recently, I was distressed to read a New York Times travel article about the resort at Caneel Bay on St. John Island. Devastated by twin hurricanes in 2017, the place is still in ruins. We are staying at neighboring Cruz Bay and I had planned on visiting this resort. Per the article, the rest of the island has been cleaned up. The problem with this resort is a dispute between the US Park Service and the concessionaire that leased the place. Most of the island is a National Park. Basically, this concession’s lease is almost up and the company doesn’t feel it’s worth the money to cleanup their resort, for the time that they have left. They’re arguing for an extension on the lease, but so far to no avail. Too bad, it was supposed to have been the best resort on the island. Still, there are plenty of other beaches on the sea.

Another thought was triggered by a Southwest Airline commercial. In this ad, a couple is seen on a tropical beach, having just come out of the water. They look tanned, except for a circle in the middle of their faces, where their snorkeling facemask has been all day. They spend the rest of the time trying to alleviate this white-face problem. Returning home with a visible tan is part of the winter get-away mystique. A way of extending the vacation longer, if only ephemerally or maybe rather epidermically so.

This advertisement highlights a more serious problem though. There is no way that either of us will enjoy our vacation under the tropical sun, without some sun protection. We do hope to do some snorkeling, but many sunscreens are harmful to the coral reefs that we plan on seeing. Fortunately, Anne’s preferred brand, Neutrogena, offers sunscreen that is reef safe, just not version that we normally buy. Another item that we’ll have to go shopping for, in anticipation. 

The Four Freedoms

At the Hirshhorn Museum are the above four images and the following text:

In his 1941 State of the Union address, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined his vision for a post-war world. One in which four freedoms, freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom of speech, would become basic human rights for all. In 1943, artist Norman Rockwell responded patriotically with a series of four paintings depicting those freedoms. In 2018, the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur reimagined these paintings and updated those images to more accurately reflect today’s more diverse US population.

I’ve always been a big Rockwell fan and enjoy this reinterpretation of his work. 

Last year, a New Yorker cartoon had the following caption, “Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the good billionaire.” This was a reference to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had launched a campaign for the Democratic nomination. He was a late arrival to the Democratic field and was initially derisively dismissed, out of hand. Now, I see his anti-Trump TV commercials every night. With a worth valued at $56B, Bloomberg can easily out spend the Republicans, by five to one. New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait opined this week, “Winning the presidential election is starting to look hard. How about buying it instead?” 

Back on the ranch, Anne restarted her Early Childhood Center’s first grade gig this week, after the long Christmas break. ECC or more correctly Eck!, is now showing its true colors as plague central. On Monday she sent home a letter to the parents on the subject of head lice. Latter in the week, she sent home a letter regarding strep throat. Yesterday, after one of her students tested positive for influenza, a third letter was dispatched regarding the flu. So, what’s next? How about freedom from illness. Until then, she will go to work every morning, singing the praises of her nineteen (or less) little dwarves, Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to the plague I go. Heigh-ho…


Window Shopping, Michael Bedard, 1970

In the run-up to Sunday evening’s rock concert, Anne had been busy fretting about how she would ever be able to cover all of the curriculum that she wanted to, before Christmas break. Especially, if there were any scheduling impacts, like due to weather. She must have been communicating some of her concerns to her colleagues, because one of them remarked that they would have thought that a long-term substitute would gladly welcome any snow days. That person had not reckoned with Anne’s dedication. Another teacher observed on Facebook, that the combination of a full moon, followed by Friday the 13th, followed by the week before Christmas, is what we call a teacher’s true-terror trifecta.

After the concert, as soon as we were safely home, Anne received a text from her principal, announcing today’s school cancelation. Snow Day! This seemed a little surprising, since the roads were not that bad, but who am I, the retired guy, to complain? My commute is only from the bed to the couch. The un-shoveled U-City sidewalks were treacherous, but that’s no reason to cancel class, but winter storm Finley was not done with us. It snowed almost all day Monday. I won’t bother you with any accumulation totals, besides what’s in a number? Some of my more northern readers would only scoff at the length, I mean depth of our snowfall anyway. Finley seems especially tailored to make I-70 travel difficult and likely won’t even impact any of those snowier than thou sceptics.

Submitting to the inevitable, with her curriculum’s schedule blown out of the water, Anne switched gears from school work to craft work. She has umpteen million projects, all simultaneously underway. She is so busy now that even though she is home for a change, it still feels like I’m home all alone. Oh well, the sun will come out tomorrow.

Raging Strife

Bayou Backroad

Pictured is Anne bicycling along a backwater bayou in Louisiana. This is from earlier this year. Getting her Cajun on. This particular roadway had been freshly tarred and the pavement was like butter. A departure from the condition of most of Louisiana’s streets. They have a saying, “In England, they drive on the left side of the road. Here in Louisiana, we drive on what’s left of the road.”

I picked this picture to accompany this post’s title, which she first coined. Not that she is mad or anything. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I offer you some testimonials from members of her 1st grade class. One of the Specials teachers had asked the kids to write her thank you notes, in honor of Thanksgiving next week. The Teacher’s Collective had already decided that no one would be doing Indian headdresses or paper bag vests this year, but surely hand-turkeys are still considered PC? I’m sure that their spelling will improve.

  • I am graetful for your keg nice [kindness] Mrs. R
  • Ms. R I am thankful because you are fune [funny]!
  • Msr. R I’m gratful for you because you are kind.
  • Mis. R, I am so gratfl for you because you help us lrne [learn]. 

In other news, it has begun and sooner than I had expected. This morning, the water company came a knocking on our front door. They asked, if we could move our Prius, so that they could park their enormous rig in front of our house. I had noticed them working down the block, earlier in the morning. It being a Saturday and that it was raining, I figured that a water main leak had sprung. I launched into my normal drill, getting the dishes done and filling pots with water, all in anticipation of the inevitable water shutoff. I even risked a shower, but only a very quick one. As it turned out this crew was surveying the laterals.

Looking for lead pipes. Their rig comprised a dump truck pulling a trailer, on which sat a huge Ditch Witch device that I came to understand is a giant vacuum cleaner. Working in pairs, one man would loosen the soil with a pole, while his partner maneuvered a long hose to suck out all the dirt. I wonder if they do carpets too? What we are left with are two postholes covered by orange cones.

The good news is that we don’t have lead pipes. Surprisingly, it is copper. I’m surprised because when we bought the house all of our interior piping was galvanized. I had had that replaced with copper years ago, mostly. Some remains on the other side of the meter and disappears into the front wall. I just assumed that it was all galvanized to the main. What I think now is that like our sewer line, up to ten feet in front of the building line was put in by the developer and the utilities handled the rest, but who knows. Some day I will find out, but I’m not looking forward to doing that. It will be expensive.

Update: A second rig has appeared after lunch. They are filling in the holes dug by the previous crew. “Just because Bob’s not here to plant the trees, is no reason that the rest of us shouldn’t get paid.” 🙂


Maltese Falcon?

Imagine my disappointment this morning, when I realized that today was only Thursday and not yet Friday. I was driving Anne to school at the time and she found my distress humorous. Why should I, the retired guy, care which day of the week it was, since for me every day is Saturday? Well, I have not been retired so long that I cannot remember the joy of anticipating the weekend. Besides, I still have a job of sorts. With only one car, I regularly drive Anne the couple of klicks to school and back. I’m like a school bus driver, carrying Anne and the school bus full of 1st graders in her head.

The other day she told me that I was lucky. She had planned to draft my help in assisting her with a classroom science project. I was lucky, because the great state of Missouri in its infinite wisdom now requires that all school volunteers must undergo a background check. Apparently, a child was abused by a volunteer, while the teacher was also in the classroom. This new law involves fingerprinting and also pertains to parents. I have undergone numerous background checks in my life, but none of them count, because this one has to be unclassified. I’m sure that having to troop on down to the police station and then wait who knows how long is going to encourage volunteerism. Like she said, I was lucky, but unfortunately the children were not so lucky.

¹ Navel gazing — Apparently, it was once a meditative discipline, before it devolved into the self-indulgent self contemplation that it is today.